The Cuban engineers brought to South Africa by the Department of Water Affairs and Sanitation will be paid up to R300,000 more per year than South African engineers who could do the same job.
This is according to labour union Solidarity, who today shared new details on the department’s project ahead of its court challenge to have the importing of the engineers declared invalid.
The union confirmed that the Cuban engineers were given employment contracts and would be paid salaries, contrary to what water affairs minister Lindiwe Sisulu’s has stated in public following backlash over the project.
Solidarity also disclosed the Cubans’ contracts, which showed that they would indeed do engineering work and not merely act as mentors as the minister said.
“The fact is that we now have an employment contract that was concluded with every one of the engineers,” said Solidarity chief executive Dirk Hermann.
“This, together with the bilateral agreement, indicates salaries, leave days, job level and an unprecedented list of fringe benefits these engineers will enjoy while they are here.”
As part of their remuneration, the engineers will receive flight tickets for holidays in Cuba, furnished accommodation, and food and telephone allowances, Solidarity said.
In addition, the union has ascertained that the Cubans did not meet the South African requirements for registration and licencing.
“Despite the department’s objections that it is not necessary for the Cubans to register to work here, they repeatedly contradict this point in the information revealed to Solidarity.”
Solidarity said the department’s own documents, and the bilateral agreement with Cuba clearly stated the Cubans were in the country to perform tasks as engineers, despite not being registered to perform this work.
“The Department clearly tried to have the Cubans registered but later decided against it due to administrative problems,” Solidarity said.
“Furthermore, the Department indicates that all the Cuban engineers will continuously work under the supervision of a registered engineer.”
“The Department is struggling terribly to keep track with their own misleading stories.”
“One must keep in mind that this type of review means, by law, that the Cuban engineers will have to work under constant supervision. All this, while qualified South Africans are raising their hands but being ignored,” Hermann added.
Solidarity reiterated that it now had sufficient information to continue with its review application to have the Minister’s decision be declared invalid.
“The court battle will therefore be taken to a new level,” it stated.
Hermann added the information from the department indicated that it consistently misled the public regarding the nature, scope, and cost of the project.
“Although they argue in court documents that the cost of the project will only amount to about R61 million, it is very clear from our own expert calculations that the project will cost much closer to R75 million,” Hermann said.
Solidarity said it was also evident from their court documents that the department never made an active effort to advertise these jobs, despite Sisulu’s claims that there were simply no South Africans who wanted the job.
“This is an absurd slap in the face for our local engineers who are just looking for employment and who cannot even dream of such benefits,” Hermann stated.
“There is now no doubt that the Cuban engineers actually have taken the jobs of South African engineers and are paid more, and that taxpayers will have to pay more than was initially stated.”
“Similar projects have been driven by the department and Cuba for more than 19 years and in the meantime, we only see our water infrastructure deteriorating even further.”
“The department is arrogant and insulting towards their own workforce. They would rather deceive and try to hide information than help South Africans.”
“We must fight this irrational and illegal decision in the strongest possible way,” Hermann concluded.